The Caribbean is an area that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the encircling coasts. The area is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America. Located largely on the Caribbean Plate, the area includes greater than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays. These islands usually type island arcs that delineate the jap and northern edges of the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean islands, consisting of the Higher Antilles on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east, are a part of the considerably bigger West Indies grouping, which additionally contains the Lucayan Archipelago north of the Higher Antilles and Caribbean Sea. In a wider sense, the mainland international locations of Belize, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are sometimes included on account of their political and cultural ties with the area. Geopolitically, the Caribbean islands are often thought to be a subregion of North America and are organized into 30 territories together with sovereign states, abroad departments, and dependencies.